Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fearful? Surrender your will.

This post is going to be pretty stream-of-consciousness, because it's the stuff that has been, well, streaming through my consciousness for many months now. So hard to put it down in words when so many spiritual lessons are pouring down. It's all so amazing and I want to talk to everyone about it all the time, but that is simply not possible. I do think it's easier to talk to people about it one-on-one, rather than write about it. But I will try to write something coherent.

First: If you are full of fear, cede control. Actually, even if you are not full of fear, cede control! Give it up. You are not in control. The only thing you can control is your will. That is all. Nothing else. Nothing else. You certainly cannot control other people, you cannot control circumstances, you cannot end suffering, sickness, disaster, and death. The illusion of control is a detriment to your spiritual life, to your interior peace, and to your relationship with God.

At some point, if you don't give up control, it will be forced from you, and painfully. I had my huge spiritual turning point and near-breakdown in July 2014, which snuck up on me in the middle of my very charmed life, quite unwelcomed. I have promised to tell you about it, and I will, but it's a bit like writing my mother-in-law's conversion story -- big and awe-ful and beautiful and terrifying and hard to express and oh yes, it may turn into a three-parter, just like that one [Note: It actually turned into a four-parter]. Because it's that HUGE in my life. My "breakdown" was the greatest spiritual lesson I ever received. It was both the darkest, most terrifying time of my life and the experience for which I am most grateful. (I hope I learned enough that I never, ever have to repeat anything like it, but I'll leave that decision to God.)

In the aftermath, I keep pondering and learning and processing, talking to others who have had amazingly similar experiences, thinking about the way so many of us move through the world with such fear (even those of us who never consciously knew that we did fear) -- fear of not being in control, fear for our families, our children, our financial security, fear of sickness, of suffering, of loneliness, and ultimately a fear of our own death, which is a subject we love to ignore in this culture of materialism, comfort, convenience, and pleasure-seeking. Anxiety and fear seem to define so many of us (though not all of us, and that is part of the story I'll tell, too).

Yes, I'm rambling.

But guys, this is so big! After I came out of my crisis, God opened up a wealth of knowledge about things that hadn't mattered to me before. I am not special; this has happened to many of you, too. Providentially, things were put in my path that had the exact application for my life at the exact moment and season that I needed them, including a book that I had picked up years ago and put down in boredom, but then picked up again last fall and subsequently had my socks knocked off. I already gushed about that book, here. I have given away many copies, recommended it to countless friends, and I now return to its principles daily hourly.

It's so brilliantly simple. It's about ordering our spiritual life around one central idea, and in doing so we change everything.

From the Forward of this book, Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us, by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen (emphases mine):

... [As Christians] we are told to deny ourselves, forgive one another, carry our cross, fast, and give alms. We must also love our neighbor, pray with others and in private, bring our troubles to the Lord, and be peacemakers. All of these things have their place, and nothing may be overlooked, but they may cause us to feel confused and divided, and we might even ask ourselves where we will find the strength to do all that is required.... We are pulled in different directions, and instead of finding peace, we become restless. What we need most is a central idea, something so basic and comprehensive that it encompasses everything else. In my opinion that central idea is surrender


Total abandonment to the will of our Loving Father.

But, what is God's will? It's whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now. The life you are living today is God's will for you today. The people you are in contact with today, the work you are doing today, the cross you are carrying today -- all these are God's will for you, today. You needn't dismiss your current duties, tasks, or interactions, nor look past your current dissatisfactions and restlessness in order to go seek God's mysterious will somewhere "out there", because God is always present to you in this moment -- not only in the joys and satisfactions, but even in the tediums, confusions, aggravations, and grave sufferings.

Live with God in the present.

If you are someone who wallows in the past: You need to stop.

If you are someone who worries about the future: You need to stop.

We are not to live in the past or the future, we are to live in this day and in this moment. If one thing has guided my Lent this year, it's a commitment to live in the moment and not fret about the future ("What if...?") that was my tendency.

Do we trust God or not?

Another thing many of us need to hear: Stop trying to save the world! We are not responsible for that. If you need both living Popes to tell you that straight out so you'll believe it, then here you go, starting with Pope Francis' Lenten Message for 2015 (emphases mine, in light of the theme of surrender):

"The suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves."

And from Pope Benedict XVI (again, emphases mine):

“There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord's hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: 'The love of Christ urges us on' (2 Cor 5:14).”

You got that? You are not in control, and you cannot save the world or even yourself for that matter. So, take that weight off your shoulders and feel peace.

To wrap up today's ramblings:

Stop dwelling on the past (right now!).
Stop worrying about the future (right now!).
Stop trying to control everything (because you can't!).
Stop searching for God's mysterious will somewhere "out there" (because His will for you can be found right where you are!).

Start trusting God in everything. He's got you!
Start abandoning yourself totally to His will.
Start realizing that every person and every circumstance in your life is there for a good reason.
Start seeing God in this moment, right now, because this moment is where He meets you.
Start to feel the peace that Christ gives, the peace that surpasses all understanding. It's real!

Abandon yourself to the God who loves you. Cede control. Surrender.

He can be trusted.

Jesus saves Peter


  1. Now I can't wait to read about your huge moment with God! I'm reading the book for lent, a little over half way through it. So rich, I only get through 3 or 4 pages before I stop for the day to ponder over what I read and how it can apply to my life.

  2. Amy, I'm telling you right now that your next book is He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter Ciszek. It is the perfect dovetail to Into Your Hands, Father, because as the latter is the "theory" laid out, the former will show you exactly how that is lived out. Oh my gosh, it's astounding. Fr. Ciszek was an American priest who was arrested by the Soviets and spent 23 years in the gulag (isolation/prison and then hard labor camp in Siberia). He had his "breakdown", and came to understand the great peace of Christ through total surrender. I will be writing about that book, too.... There is just so much.... I just can't.... lol, can you tell that I am so stunned and amazed by what I'm learning? I am glad you are, too!

  3. I had a moment like that in my life (well actually, it was more like a month and a half of spiritual darkness). It was right after my heart attack. Like you, it can't be summed up in words and it's a story that is difficult to explain because it was so spiritually dark. But basically, like you, I was terrified all the time. I was afraid to pray--literally afraid--I lived in fear all the time and was literally paralyzed with fear to the point where I wasn't able to take care of myself or my family. I was either in the hospital with anxiety-related heart symptoms or stuck in my room because I was too weak to take care of the children. And all the while, I feared God and what he would do with my life. Anyway, maybe it's a story I will tell one day because obviously I came out of it but it wasn't from my own doing.

    This Lent, I feel like everything is being stripped away from me. I have been through the death of a friend, lost another friend through a fight, been sick and have felt misunderstood. All the while, I have felt the calling of God to depend only on him. Even though all of this has been painful it's been cleansing. It's defintetely felt like Lent, a time in the desert with no consolation whatsoever, but a part of me doesn't want it any other way---because God is in the desert.

    Can't wait to read the rest of your posts!

  4. Becky, beautifully stated! You know how I feel about you and your witness and your faithfulness! :)

  5. Thanks, Leila! And thanks for the book rec! I bought it a little before Lent started and it has been absolutely perfect for this time of Lent and for this time of my life.

    Your post reminds me of a quote from Jeremiah 18: "I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the vessel of clay he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making another vessel of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?—oracle of the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel."

    How often, in times of fear and uncertainty, do we try and wrestle control out of the potter's hand? How can we possibly think that that will make things turn out better? And yet we do. I do. How prideful, and how sad, that as clay we try to tell the potter what he should make of us.

    Paul says the same thing in Romans 9: "Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one?"

    LOL sorry for the quote dump, but I just love this image. I like to think that, even if the Lord has destined me to be a chamber-pot, then I'd better do my damnedest to be the best chamber-pot I can be, rather than make myself ridiculous trying to be a vase.

  6. RhiannanT, exactly! I love that last part, especially, ha ha!! Amen!!

  7. Hi! I have a question: Would you recommend this/these book/s to a Protestant?

  8. Hi Ann! Well, the book is very much steeped in Catholic spirituality, but it's all very simple and basic (yet profound), so I think I would! God's Providence and surrender to His will will resonate in a Protestant's heart. And the second book, He Leadeth Me is such a compelling story that I think a Protestant would be intrigued.

    Great question, though, because I hadn't thought about it!

  9. I belong to a 12 Step program and we pray the first part every time:

    Serenity Prayer

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.
    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.

    The Full Original Copy of the Serenity Prayer
    by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

    God, give us grace to accept with serenity
    the things that cannot be changed,
    Courage to change the things
    which should be changed,
    and the Wisdom to distinguish
    the one from the other.

    Living one day at a time,
    Enjoying one moment at a time,
    Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This sinful world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
    And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


    Between this prayer and your post, I am finding more and more peace from my massive flip out last month. Thank you.

  10. And also, one of our tools to distinguish between Self Will and God's will is I am in Self Will if I feel

    (That I have to ) Force Solutions
    Like a Failure

  11. Thanks for the reply!! :) I just left a comment on a Protestant woman's blog about these books... I think she'd find them interesting. Hopefully, she won't be scared off by the fact that they're written by priests. I guess I'll just wait now and see if anything happens. Anyway, thanks again! (Gotta go read some more of The Everlasting Man for my philosophy midterm tomorrow...)

  12. SheWhoSeeks, that is excellent!! Yes! Thank you!

    Ann, that is great! And even if she doesn't read them perhaps someone else who sees that comment will!

  13. Oooo I want to read your experience now! You have me on the edge of my seat. And I tried to read Into Your Hands Father twice and I keep putting it down. Then forget about it. BUT, then there's this blogger (ahem) who keeps talking about it and reminding me how I really need to read it. Ok , I get it! :). I'll get back to reading it! :).

  14. Oh, by the way, her blog post that I left the comment on was about how she and her husband went to see The Drop Box and it was a really great movie. I wish I could see it myself...
    Okay, now that I've swapped the recommendations of two blogs, I'd better actually go study. Adios! :)

  15. I really needed to read this post today. And just about every day, actually. How I wish you were my next-door neighbor, Leila, so that we could have little chats over coffee or while out walking the dog.

    I'll just have to settle for reading the blog. :)

    1. Anita, that would be fun! Email me sometime and we can chat that way!

  16. It's funny how your excerpts are also the underlines in my copy of the book. I agree it is a great read. However .... I picked up a book titled The Gift of Faith by Tadeusz Dajczer because it was highly recommended by Stinissen, and I found that book even more challenging and soul-opening for me, and based on responses from friends I gifted it to, it appeals to many people.

    I'm glad to read of your continuing faith walk; we're all called to grow in holiness, to a perfection never totally reached in this life. Aquinas says that as we age the speed of our growth accelerates. Going through some deep insights myself of late, I tend to agree with him.

  17. DNBA, well there you go, putting another book on my must-read list!! :)

    I like what Aquinas says! That makes sense to me now, for sure!

  18. I’ll need to add that book to my list.
    These things are easier blogged than done. One thing that helps me to "let go & let God" on a very practical level is something called Centering Prayer. I recommend a book called Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating

  19. Amen, Leila! I'm going to put in a plug for my book here, if you don't mind. I wrote Trusting God with St. Therese because I found my spiritual growth stunted by doubts, fears, and frustrations over my sins. Specifically, my sister died tragically (while sitting beside me in a car crash) when I was 6. I feared that something like that would happen to my kids. I began to question whether God was good and whether I could trust Him. After meditating on St. Therese's life and how she trusted God in every circumstance, my attitude completely changed. I am so much more peaceful now and I have started growing in my spiritual life again. Praise God! I wrote about Therese's life and mine in my book, and how readers can implement this trust in small steps.

  20. Ben, I really hate to criticize anything that has seemed to help another person, but the Centering Prayer practiced and taught by Fr. Thomas Keating is not traditional Christian prayer, despite claims to the contrary. It's basically an adaptation of Buddhist meditation that does not require a person to change his life on any level. Yes, meditation can bring a certain level of peace, but it should not be confused with surrendering one's life to God and the peace that brings. I admit I haven't read the book you are recommending, but I have researched the issue extensively online, reading both what Keating and his followers and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have said. I hope to write a book on this some day. Here is the link to a blog post I wrote on the subject:

    1. I'll check your post.
      Some aspects of Truth can be found in other religions. In Buddhism on detaches from everything to find peace, but is left with nothing. Centering Prayer is a door way contemplation. One detaches from everything and is left with God. The difference is vast.

      I once wrote an article for The Contemplative Outreach Here:

  21. Connie, I am reading your book on Kindle this very moment! And I have to say, it is EXACTLY what I need to read. "Into Your Hands" is what I plan to read next but I'm one of those people that have to finish a book before I can start another. :-)

    Anyway Connie, your book is very, very good and thought out--I feel like it's everything God has been speaking to me. It's great to meet you at the Bubble!

  22. Thanks, Becky. I'm glad it's helping you. At this moment I'm multi-tasking, editing the audio book while I read Leila's blog. I hope to have that available in the next few weeks. Great to meet one of my readers here too!

  23. Connie, I am SO glad you told people about your book! Amazing and very much in line with the idea of abandonment and trust!

    Ben, I know it's "easier blogged than done", but I'm here to tell everyone: It's not that complicated. It's a change of mindset. It can happen in one day. You simply decide to live in the present and to accept what comes as if it came from God's hand (it did). It's a new lens, a new paradigm. It's very much about being stewards of our thoughts. We simply make a decision not to "go there" anymore. It can be a challenge for some, indeed, but for others it can be as simple as making a decision to think, see and understand things differently. God's grace will be there for us when we decide to make that change.

  24. Connie, I just read your link, and it is excellent! It always comforts me to realize that St. Teresa and St. Therese did not push any techniques, and that St. Therese actually just lifted her heart to God, having trouble with the formal, beautiful prayers!

  25. Connie and Ben, I went to Amazon to look at the good and the bad reviews of the Thomas Keating book on centering prayer. One of the (lengthy and detailed) negative reviews contained the following, and if it's true about the book then it's a huge red flag:

    It is significant that nowhere in this book does Keating instruct us to read, study, learn, listen to or meditate upon the Word of God, even as part of centering or contemplative prayer. He goes so far as to say that if you become aware of any spiritual communication or consolation from God, then "it is not full union [with Him]" (p. 71). He says, "Even if you see the heavens opening and Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, forget it" (p. 71). This is patently absurd. What is the point of "union with God" if you are not supposed to be aware of it?

    Could he really mean this? Christian contemplation is not the discovering of "nothingness" or "unawareness", but of discovering a Person at the center of everything.

    Thoughts? What am I missing?

  26. Connie, and now you really have me thinking, because what do you think of the Cloud of Unknowing?

  27. Leila, I actually dealt with some of the exact things in the quotes you gave from Fr. Stinissen--specifically the transformation from thinking there are so many things to do in my spiritual life that I feel overwhelmed and discouraged, to realizing that trust (or surrender) encompasses everything.

    Yeah, St. Therese is amazing. She was not at all disturbed by her weaknesses and shortcomings or afraid to make accommodations for them. Yet at the same time she was ruthless in rooting out her sin. All this came about after she had a crisis too--the crisis of scruples, when she saw that she could never do all the great, meritorious acts she thought holiness required. I thank God that you and I can share our crises with others to help them as she and others has helped us. I can't wait to hear more about your story.

  28. Leila, looks like we were posting at the same time. The Cloud of Unknowing is an orthodox book of contemplative spirituality. However, it is not nearly as clear or precise as Teresa of Avila's writings. Because of the confusion people in our times have about contemplation vs meditation, I do not recommend anyone who isn't well versed in Carmelite spirituality read The Cloud. It's too easily misinterpreted.

    BTW, my research turned up exactly the same problems as the reviewer cites about Keating's book. The website of Contemplative Outreach (Keating's org.) says more or less the same thing. The method/meditation thus becomes the end, rather than God. You are not missing anything. I think Keating (and Basil Pennington and others) was genuinely trying to help those who were interested in Hindu/Buddhist meditation find fulfillment in the Church. Unfortunately, he/they ended up offering people eastern meditation and claiming it was the same thing Teresa of Avila and other saints taught. I even read an O.Carm priest just a few days ago who said that we should use the term Centering Prayer in place of Contemplative Prayer and that Teresa of Avila taught one type of Centering Prayer. That would be news to her! The CDF under Ratzinger addressed these issues and cautioned against using methods inspired by non-Christian traditions.

  29. Trying to comment again, maybe I'll do it right this time?

    Thank you SO much for this post! It is very timely and appreciated. I ordered the book after our email exchange and am anxious (ha!) to read it. The worry can be so consuming for me at times, it must be such a relief to let it go. I can't wrap my brain around it for some reason though. I just want to protect my kids from everything and if I think about it too much it is just crushing. I have to stop!! Thank you so much for your advice and your example. I would love to hear more about your experience when you are ready to share it.

  30. Oh, Nancy, yes, letting go of the worry is such a relief! And if we truly know that we are at the mercy of a LOVING God, then nothing that happens to us, or our children, will make us anxious. We are in His hands, safe, no matter what happens to us between now and Heaven.... I really am looking forward to what you think of the book. And I guess I need to really think about writing my story. Come Holy Spirit!

  31. Connie, thank you for the explanations -- I love learning. I want to know what I'm talking about, ha ha. And Ben, I will read your article and I also look forward to Connie's thoughts on it. Peace to both you wonderful people!

  32. This reminds me of a quote from St. Francis de Sales -- I printed it out and have it hanging in my cubicle at work.

    "Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father Who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings." - St. Francis de Sales

  33. Ben, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross are the Doctors of the Church on prayer. Although Keating, et. al, want to say that the Centering Prayer they teach is the same thing as Centering Prayer, that argument falls short. I'll address this in a few posts, so it doesn't get too long.

    First, we don not EVER become contemplatives by using a method. EVER. If you search Teresa and John you will never find them saying you must use a certain method of prayer. Teresa gives many examples of how somehow can meditate, and tells us how to pray better. She doesn't provide steps or many details. John of the Cross just mentions meditation in passing. There is NO method for contemplative prayer, because true infused contemplation is a pure gift of God.

    So how do we get it? We prepare ourselves, not by using a certain set of exercises, but by faithfulness to mental prayer and a life surrendered to God. We keep doing our meditation (which for Christians means pondering the Gospels like Mary and letting the stories move us to love of God) until we cannot do it any more, until it becomes unnatural, forced. Until our minds cannot continue. We don't stop doing meditation just because it doesn't seem to suit our temperament. If that's the case, we find another method of traditional Christian prayer that does. But we always have a conversation with Christ until He Himself begins to draw us beyond that. We can't become contemplatives by force.

    Infused contemplation is a deepening union with God. It is a friendship that God initiates. He initiates it when we have done all we can on our own. It's not a substitute for our work, it comes after it.

    1. I meant "That the Centering Prayer they teach is the same thing as Contemplative Prayer."

  34. Yes, we can find good in other religions. But Buddhist meditation has a completely different goal than Christian meditation, so the means to get to the goal will also be different. The Buddhist wants to eradicate the personal. The Christian wants to be untied with the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

    Centering Prayer as taught by Keating, Basil Pennington, and others, is nothing more than transcendental meditation that uses a Christian mantra. It can't make you a contemplative.

    Now, God can take any person He wants to and raise them to infused contemplation. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), for example, experienced infused contemplation before she became a Christian, because she was seeking truth with all her heart. So God could definitely take someone who was practicing Centering Prayer and make him a contemplative. But it wouldn't be because of the method he was using. It would be because he was doing the best he could to live a life centered on God, surrendering His will to God in everything, avoiding not only venial sin, but imperfections and attachments.

  35. If you read the contemporary masters of the spiritual life such as Garrigou-Lagrange and Jordan Aumann, they tell us that prayer growth usually goes like this: vocal prayer, discursive meditation, affective prayer, acquired recollection. Then, when and how God wills, infused contemplation.

    Centering Prayer in some ways resembles acquired recollection. And someone like Ben who has been striving to live for God and to pray for a long time may well be at the stage of acquired recollection. And I would not want to tell him he needs to go back to discursive meditation. That's something only a good spiritual director can discern.

    But acquired recollection, as Teresa of Avila explicitly says in Interior Castle, is "not yet supernatural." It's a work of the soul. It's not infused contemplation. Usually a person experiencing acquired recollection still has to go through the Dark Night of the Senses, which is very painful, before experiencing a contemplative union with God.

    One danger of Centering Prayer is that the same method is offered to everyone, no matter where they are in the spiritual life. An absolute beginner who is not even necessarily trying to rid his life of sin can practice it and achieve feelings of peace. The he mistakenly thinks he is a contemplative. Once in a while I get people like this on my blog, who say they are Mystics and then I find out that they are not even familiar with traditional Christian prayer practices or are steeped in eastern spirituality,

    Another, related problem is that practitioners think the peace they find is how deep prayer is supposed to feel. But John of the Cross wrote an entire book about deep prayer that is dark and dry. So if God does lead these people towards the Dark Night, they often resist and cling to the method, because they think the darkness should be avoided. So they find themselves working against God and they never receive infused contemplation. They have to be satisfied with naturally generated peaceful feelings instead of union with God.

  36. Connie, you have no idea how much I love reading this stuff. I just love it, and I am so glad you are so knowledgeable about it. One thing that frustrates me is when people who are experiencing clinical depression declare that they are going through a "Dark Night", when in fact the two things are completely different! So much to learn. Thank you!

  37. Yeah, that bothers me too, Leila. The real Dark Nights are not natural--they are supernatural. Even spiritual suffering is not necessarily a Dark Night. Spiritual darkness can have many causes.

  38. I just want to add one more thing. If anyone has any doubts about Fr. Keating's orthodoxy, just read this interview. It is astonishingly bad in its theology.

  39. Connie, yikes! That is a scary interview. He actually equates Eastern meditation and Christian contemplative prayer! Whoa....

  40. Yes, Leila, and he has given contemplative prayer a bad name. Many Protestants now equate contemplative prayer with eastern meditation. You'll find sources all over the internet that call contemplation "New Age," when it is actually the goal of the spiritual life (union with God), and has always been so.

  41. :)
    I look forward to reading about your experience, Leila! It's sort of ironic, but not really I guess, how often what seems like a tragic breakdown really turns out to be a 2x4 that we need spiritually.
    I got "Into Your Hands" for my Lenten reading as well, because of your recommendation, but I'm not sure all of it is quite what I need right now; though the emphasis on acceptance and living in the present is something I need to work on.
    I'm not finished with it, but does it mention anything about actively doing things when one's circumstances are undesirable? For instance, in the case of cancer or a disease - one must accept what has been "given", but it seems contradictory to acceptance to try and change the circumstance. Just something that's been bugging me.

  42. Jenn-Henn, great question! We are certainly not required to stay in a suffering that we can alleviate. If there is a cure, if there is a treatment, if there is a way to get out of the situation, morally, that will relieve our sufferings and/or our illnesses, we certainly may avail ourselves. But when suffering comes to us (as it always will), and there is no moral solution to that suffering, we accept it and surrender to the cross that has been given to us. We carry the cross with grace and peace knowing that it came to us from a loving and trustworthy Father, for our eternal good. And even if we can alleviate the suffering, at the point where we are still undergoing the suffering, we don't rail against it, but we surrender to it, even as we may legitimately be working to overcome it.

    I hope that makes sense and that it helps answer the question.

    1. Yes,Leila, it does help, very much so. Thanks!

  43. I thought I would also put in that I have recently discovered the truth of what harm can come from trying to "save the world". I'm all about helping people, doing what we can. I get irritated with sloth and lukewarm behavior which overall is a good thing, but I've learned that worrying about these things can be just as harmful! Learning about my own human limitations has been very humbling for me, but it's been a really great thing. I learned that what "Becky" cannot do, God can, and even better. It's been good to learn when to step up when God calls us but also when to step back and watch from the sidelines. Definitely the more humble place but it's a place that God asks me to be, most of the time. :-)

  44. Becky, thank you for that! Yes, it can be harmful, more than just a weight on our shoulders. What a grace to recognize that! And I know how amazing you are at reaching out to help people in need. I have seen it in action so many times. :)

  45. Leila, God keeps putting this idea of surrender in my path. I have "Into Your Hands, Father" in my cart at Amazon but I decided first to finish reading Connie's book which I dipped into a few months ago. I love this from her book, which I read just before Mass this morning: "God knows what he is doing in our lives. Our circumstances have not gotten the better of him. The only what if? we should consider asking is, What if I were to give myself totally to God? But better than asking it would be choosing to do it."

    My difficulty in thinking of surrender, of "letting go and letting God", is that I know that passivity can be one of my weaknesses. Let God do everything? Sounds good to me! Wake me up when everything's in place! Obviously, I have to be careful not to take the concept too far. I have to be able to discern where my effort is required and where I need to let God take over. This has been especially important to me since I have to make major life decisions over the next few months, and I honestly do not know what the best choices for me are. I will need to prepare my youngest boys for the changes, but don't want to say anything until I have a good idea of the path I need to take. There are paths that "seem" to be the most logical, but something in me keeps saying no. I haven't known whether the "no" was coming from me or from God, but I think I was sent an answer this week when I was at a First Friday event for my kids. I was flipping through a booklet that had been on a table in the church hall and came across a passage that jumped off the page: "When the time is ready, you will receive direction and you will know clearly where to go." I feel now that my job is to just focus on the things you mention above, finding God's will in "the people you are in contact with today, the work you are doing today, the cross you are carrying today." God can use those things to prepare me for whatever plans he knows are best for my family.

    Count me in as another one who is looking forward to reading the full story of your spiritual awakening!

  46. Sharon, what an awesome reflection! Yes, "surrender" is not just passivity. We still must live our lives, purposely, and be virtuous in whatever he sends us that day. But we may surely decide to move, or go to school, or paint our house, or marry, or have children, etc.... We have the freedom to choose what is good and what will bring us interior peace, but we also will accept and surrender to whatever suffering we encounter, or whatever monkey wrench (seems) to mess up our plans....

    Connie is amazing, no?!

  47. Love this Leila!! I just read it and man... Do we have things in common! Haha. Control. What a tough one.

  48. Well, I just returned here after a couple of days and got my ego boost for the week. Thanks, gals!

    Sharon, I know about the temptation to passivity, because my primary temperament is phlegmatic. When I was reading about anger management (as I mention in the book), the authors said that people who were used to suppressing their anger until they blew up should practice voicing it, even if at times that means they do it badly. Other people should try to just let their anger go, but not them. They will think they're letting it go when they're just hiding it. I think you're working with a similar dynamic on surrender. If you have done everything you can to further God's will, then you can sit back and wait. Surrender is not so much passivity as an attitude. Use that phlegmatic part of you that tends not to care too much about things to say, "I'll accept God's will, no matter what it is." But once you know what it is, be prepared to act on it.

    Isn't life always a challenge?

  49. Connie, this:

    "Surrender is not so much passivity as an attitude."

    Yes! Everyone needs to memorize this!

  50. Does one really need religion to "surrender"? Can't one simply stop worrying about the past and the future and surrender to the fact that we live in an indifferent universe and that life is meaningless?

  51. "Opinion" is not "fact," Night Cruller. I see far more evidence to the contrary.

  52. Nobody ever presents this "evidence".

  53. Quite obviously, you haven't been looking. Here are a few resources to get you started:

    Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God by Peter Kreeft

    Can You Prove that God Exists? by Peter Kreeft

    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

    Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler

    From Atheism to Catholicism: How Scientists and Philosophers Led Me to the Truth by Kevin Vost

    Answering the New Atheism by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wilker

    There are many, many, many, many, many others. Your reluctance to seek it out doesn't mean that it hasn't been presented. People have presented this evidence IN SPADES.

  54. Well, Night Cruller, that's not what "surrender" means in this context. Surrendering into the arms and heart of One who loves you is quite different from surrendering to meaninglessness and ultimate annihilation. If I surrendered to the latter, then I'd go ahead and kill myself, probably. And I'd make it as painless as possible, and I would actually wish I had never been born in the first place. Being born for glory and love eternal is quite different from being born for nothing at all.

    Nobody ever presents this "evidence". <--<-- Well, the hundreds of thousands of books and writings (Aquinas? Chesterton? Lewis? to name three), and the countless lives of the saints and the evidence of miracles and all the millions of words on the internet.... It's all there. Open your heart and dive in.

  55. Thank you for the advice, Connie! Yes, I saw a similarity in our way of dealing with things in at least a couple of passages in your book. I see you have contact information in the book so I will have to follow up with you on Facebook! :) Thanks again!

  56. thank you for this post, Leila! I just sent the link to my college freshman daughter who is struggling with her choice of major. She so badly wants to discern God's will for her-and right now!! And that's not always an easy thing to do. I hope your post begins to give her some peace.

  57. Ellyn, I pray that it will! And when she is trying to make a big decision, have her go with the one that gives her more interior peace (not necessarily the easier choice externally).


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